@@@@ (4 out of 5)
Conspirata tells the tale of the deathless Roman orator, politician, and lawyer Marcus Tullius Cicero at the key inflection point of his long career, the fateful year he served as Roman consul (a sort of co-president) and the tragic consequences that overtook Cicero and all of Rome in the following years. The story is told by Cicero’s long-standing secretary, the slave Tiro, also a figure out of history. Conspirata is the second book in a trilogy about Cicero that began with Imperium and is to be concluded in 2011 with a third novel.
In the hands of such an able writer as Robert Harris, Cicero’s fascinating and fateful story emerges on the page in all its drama, and Cicero’s famous contemporaries — Gaius Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great — come to light in the full bloom of their outsize personalities. In the broadest sense, Conspirata relates the historically momentous intersection of two men’s careers, the then-young Caesar and the aging Cicero. The novel’s action unfolds between Cicero’s inauguration as consul in 63 B.C.E. until Caesar departed with his legions for Gaul in 58 B.C.E.
Conspirata is a political thriller pitting two consummate political strategists against each other. It’s a tale threaded throughout with tension and suspense — a gripping read.
You know Robert Harris’ work if you’ve seen the recent film, The Ghost Writer, or read the novel on which it was based. Harris, an English writer and former journalist for the BBC, The Observer, and other British publications, turned to fiction with Fatherland, an international best-seller that explored an alternate world in which Nazi Germany had won World War II. That 1992 novel and many since then have been adapted to film or television.